Growing Digital Viewership Complicates Monetization, But Brings Opportunity

More than other TV companies, Viacom’s young-skewing networks could be the barometer for not only future viewing trends but also subsequent measuring problems.

TV ratings for Viacom’s main trio of networks -- MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon -- tumbled 15% during the third quarter. But Philippe Dauman, Viacom chief executive, said that 30% of the viewing of its networks was through mobile apps, gaming devices and other platforms not dependent on those traditional Nielsen ratings.

In the next three years, Dauman added, Viacom expects that portion of viewing to represent about 50% of its domestic advertising sales. “Technology will be our friend in that arena,” he said during Viacom’s third quarter earnings call.

Viacom is focusing in this area because its viewers are young kids, teens, millennials, and young adults. But how will Viacom measure and monetize this new viewership – and who will be next down this road?  Perhaps Fox, which already has been hit with Viacom-like double-digit primetime rating declines over the past two years.



Networks are particularly worried about time-shifted viewing beyond three days or seven days. Some are even talking up strong viewership at thirty-plus days.  For example, CBS presented data showing that this fall’s premiere episode of “Scorpion” pulled in more than 26 million viewers through 35 days of time-shifted viewing via DVRs, VOD, and online streaming platforms.

Technology will be everyone’s friend should such numbers result in higher ad revenues – or, with subscription video on demand, in extra viewer fees.

Maybe that is just the start of a complex array of viewing numbers coming our way. Big data indeed.

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